NASCAR Cup: Chase field cut to eight after Talladega
Joey Logano celebrates in victory lane at Talladega Superspeedway after winning the Hellmann’s 500 on Oct. 23, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
The Hellmann’s 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Sunday was the sixth race of the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup, making it the elimination race of the second round. With Sunday’s checkered flag, the Chase field was whittled from 12 to eight drivers to kick-off the third round of the Chase, set to get underway Oct. 30 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
By winning at Talladega on Sunday, Joey Logano joined Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson as drivers advancing to the third round, or round of eight, by virtue of second-round race wins.
“If we can get through this round, it was going to be tough after what happened in Charlotte, so to be able to recover and win in a clutch moment like this to move us on feels really, really good,” Logano said.
Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr., both four-time winners to this point in the season, were eliminated from the Chase after blown engines at Talladega. Truex’s engine expired early in the race, bringing out the first caution on lap 42. His elimination comes after he won two of the three races that made up the opening round of the Chase.
“Definitely not the way we wanted today to go; it’s a tough way to go out, but proud of the effort and proud of all the guys,” Truex said. “It’s unfortunate that it was with everything on the line. We really thought we were going to have a good day. We had a fast Toyota Camry, and it’s just a shame it ended the way it did.”
Keselowski was dominant before losing his engine. He took the lead from pole sitter Truex on the first lap and led 90 laps before his engine blew on lap 145.
Joining Truex and Keselowski and eliminated drivers after Talladega were Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon. Elliott led nine laps but wound up outside the top-10 in 12th at the finish. Meanwhile, Dillon barely missed out on Chase advancement with a ninth-place finish.
Denny Hamlin claimed the eighth and final advancing Chase spot after finishing third at Talladega. He wound up in a points tie with Dillon but garnered the last third-round Chase spot through a tie-breaker.
“I’m just proud of this team,” Dillon said. “We made it a full ‘nother round. Thought we were going to make it another one, but it didn’t work out for us.”
Hamlin is joined in the round of eight by his three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates — Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards — even though those teammates dropped to the back at the start of the race and were still back there at the checkered flag. The trio of Kenseth, Edwards and Busch had a significant enough points cushion to not need a finish at or near the front to advance to the next round. They finished 28th, 29th and 30th.
“It’s frustrating (to run in the back),” Busch said after finishing 30th. “But to have a dull day today, it’s certainly going to make for a heck of a lot more exciting days down the road. You have to look at it as you have to take the good with the bad sometimes; no different in that sort of scenario. Today was one of those having to ride around bad-type days, but the reward is being able to race on and go into the next round and have a chance to race for another championship.”
Kurt Busch also advanced to the next round of the Chase with a fourth-place Talladega finish.